What natural hair products do you use? 

I get that question from someone every day, sometimes several times in one day. 

So I’m going to share my natural hair care routine with you and share what my natural hair has taught me about writing. 

But first, I need to share a bit of my hair story. Every Black woman has a hair story. Mine is one with many different acts. When I was younger, I hated my hair even though everyone around me seemed obsessed with it. They all said that I had “good hair,” though I didn’t see what was so great about it. They declared it would be a sin to ever cut it.  

“Your hair is your glory,” the old church ladies would tell me. But it certainly didn’t feel glorious. My hair brought me a lot of unwanted attention like the lingering eyes of men old enough to be my father or girls refusing to be my friend and whispering, “She think she all that cuz she got long hair.”

It was ridiculously long, impossibly thick, and perpetually frizzy. My mom wouldn’t let me get a relaxer like all the other Black girls at school, but I was determined to have straight hair come hell or high water. And hell did come in the form of the hours I spent trying to wrestle my unruly curls into submission with the strongest, hottest hair appliances I could afford. 

Then one summer day when I was in college, while on my third hour of doing my hair, my roommate turned to me and said, “Maybe your hair doesn’t want to be straight. Why don’t you just wear it curly?”

Never before had anyone suggested that letting my hair exist in its naturally curly state was an option. But at that moment, something clicked and, just like that, I started rocking my curls. Keep in mind that this was years before natural hair was cool. So most people–especially my family members–wanted to tie me down and run a hot comb through my curly coif. But I was unbothered and wrote love poems to my hair, which turned into love poems to myself. The more I accepted my hair as is, the more I learned to accept myself. 

Eventually, natural hair would become all the rage. The same people who used to ask, “Don’t you want a perm?” were now asking me for curly hair care product suggestions.

Nearly two decades later my hair story would get even more complicated thanks to cancer. Five months of chemotherapy in 2020 meant I spent most of that year with no hair at all. And as my hair started to grow back, I had to learn how to love it – and style it — all over again. (You can read more of my hair story in my book Find Your Way Back.) 

My Natural Hair Care Routine

My hair 3, 6, and 12 months post-chemo

So here’s my new natural hair care routine. 

First, I co-wash my hair. (For the uninitiated, that basically means I wash my hair with conditioner.)  I have no allegiance to any one brand of shampoo or conditioner but these days it’s typically the Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter Curl Definition Conditioner by Not Your Mother’s Naturals.

When I get out of the shower, I oil my scalp with tea tree oil and then comb coconut oil or jojoba oil through my hair.

Next, I apply Suave Mango Butter and Castor Oil Defining Gel and comb it through my hair. 

To complete the look I apply Eco Styler. And that’s it.

Yes, I use two gels instead of a gel and a cream-based styler. You may find that weird and what’s even stranger is that before chemo, I didn’t use any type of gel product. They all made my hair flaky. Shaking my head looked like shaking a snow globe. 

But when I tried to use my old products on my post-chemo curls they didn’t work. And here’s the first lesson I want to share: Don’t be afraid to try something new. Try a new genre of writing or simply try writing in a different place. 

Also, don’t assume that things that worked in the past will always work in the future. Maybe in the past, you would write before bed. But now that you’re a mom or you have more responsibilities at work, you’re exhausted at the end of the day. So it’s time to try something new. For example, perhaps you could get in your writing first thing in the morning instead. 

Natural hair has shown me community is everything. I went natural so long ago that it wasn’t even called “going natural” back then. There were no YouTube videos or Instagram posts or Reels to help me figure out what to do with my curls. For years, I was out here using mousse! 

But once natural hair gained popularity I was able to find a community of other naturalistas to help me out. We were all experimenting together and having fun in the process. 

And finally, natural hair reminds me that being your true self is key. Both my hair and my scalp are healthiest when I’m wearing my natural curls. Even though occasionally rocking straight hair is fun, I feel like more of myself and I feel more confident when my hair is curly. Authenticity is always the answer – especially with writing. People should be able to tell your work is your work even if your name isn’t on it. One way to do this is to get clear on your values and make sure everything you create reflects those values. 

Find your true writing voice and use it – always. Don’t try to write like anyone else. Be true. Be you.